Name: Penri Jones

Firm: DWF

Position: Trainee solicitor

Degree: Law

University: University of Sheffield

Hobbies: Football, walking and cooking

Current department: Construction, Infrastructure & Projects

Number of TC applications made and interviews attended: A lot!

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor?

I have always been interested in problem solving and during my studies I enjoyed applying the law to scenarios to resolve particular issues. After completing a number of work experience placements and seeing the law in practice, I recognised its all-encompassing nature and the major implications it has on everyday life, whether in a business context or otherwise.

I also wanted a career that was client facing, intellectually stimulating and commercially focused. Working as a solicitor in a commercial law firm seemed to tick all the boxes.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?

Initially, the financial crisis, as I first applied for training contracts in my second year of university in 2010, when a number of firms closed their recruitment processes due to the downturn in the market. Having not been successful by the time I came to graduate, I looked at other options and secured a position with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

More generally; the challenge is knowing exactly what a firm is looking for and how to tailor your application accordingly.

What was the toughest training contract interview question you were asked (at any firm) and how did you answer?

What is your biggest weakness?

I think the hardest questions are those that are unexpected. When preparing for training contract interviews, it is normal to focus on your strengths and come up with examples of when you have demonstrated the range of skills that law firms are looking for such as teamwork, communication skills and commercial awareness. So to be asked about my weaknesses was a surprise!

I briefly referred to what I thought was my biggest weakness (I can’t remember what I actually said) and then talked about ways that I had sought to address it. Essentially, how I had tried to turn a negative into a positive.

Tell us a bit about the type of work handled by the department you’re in at the moment…

The department covers a full range of contentious and non-contentious construction matters which includes acting for funders, developers, consultants and contractors.

The non-contentious transactional work involves setting up the contractual structure for a project or development by drafting and negotiating construction contracts and all other associated documentation; the combination of which allocate the risk and liability of each of the parties.

Contentious elements of construction can arise at any stage of construction, or after completion. They relate to defects in design or the construction works themselves and are typically resolved by way of litigation or adjudication.

Due to the nature of construction work, there is a high level of collaboration with the business’s real estate and banking teams which gives an opportunity to work with a range of fee earners and clients.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

I enjoy working for a law firm which is innovative, is constantly changing and evolving and has a strong culture and ethos.

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

I didn’t quite appreciate how much emphasis was placed on corporate social responsibility. There are CSR events and initiatives that take place on an almost weekly basis which raise funds for the DWF Foundation and support communities in the vicinity of the firm’s offices. Since starting my training contract, I have completed the Great Manchester Run, have been involved in the firm’s award-winning Five Star Futures programme, signed up to ride on the fastest zip-line in Europe and invited to take part in the Munich Marathon.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

An email from a member of the firm’s marketing team about DWF’s transport campaign on which I have been co-ordinating our social media presence.

Where’s the best place to go to get your office’s gossip?

One of my trainee colleagues who I worked with as a paralegal before we both started our training contracts. She always seems to know the office gossip!

Describe your training partner in three words.

Liverpool Football Club. Alternatively, authoritative, approachable and supportive.

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I am a Magistrate
  • I met Amal Clooney before she met George
  • I have been skydiving

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

Prior to securing my training contract, I worked for RBS for nearly three years so probably something in banking or finance.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?

Not to underestimate the importance of non-legal work experience.

Previous experience in areas outside of law can provide numerous examples of the key competencies and skills that firms are looking for in trainee solicitors. Yet, perhaps more importantly, it provides evidence of commercial awareness. Working for any type of business, whether it be a small local company or a large multinational organisation, will provide an insight into how a company operates, what factors contribute to success and failures and the pressures and challenges faced by businesses in its marketplace.

When clients want their legal advisers to provide commercially focused advice, understanding a business and its sector in this way is crucial. With many firms now also adopting sector based approaches, it is a great way to show that your skills and experience can align to a particular sector and a business’s expertise.